Ben Scicluna

Leading Teacher – Pathways and Transitions, Tarneit Senior College

Teaching can be a career where it’s mainly just you and the kids, and you can feel a bit alone sometimes. But being a member of the AEU makes you feel that you’re part of something bigger, and as a collective we have a lot of power. When the strike happened, it felt like the government had to listen to us, because there was so many of us, united with one voice.

When I walked out of uni and straight into my first job, I knew nothing about my rights around pay and working conditions.  I remember the AEU rep sat all the new teachers down and talked to us about our entitlements, lunch breaks, compulsory meetings, how many periods of face-to-face teaching time we had to do each week. University doesn’t teach you any of that.

I joined the AEU in my first week or two of teaching. I’d been speaking to a more senior staff member and he told me that joining the union was a good idea. I’ll never forget - he told me a story about a teacher who really needed the union’s help after a kid was injured while he was on yard duty, and the union was there to support him and give him advice. When I heard that, I thought: “You never know what’ll happen in this job, so having that support and someone to talk to is definitely a good thing.”

In the past, I’ve sought the union’s help about pay and conditions. You can find yourself overworked and stressed, and knowing what the Agreement says and where you stand is really important. It’s great to be able to call up the union to find out whether your school is asking you to attend too many meetings, for example. I’ve also asked the union’s advice about professional responsibilities.

As my teaching career’s progressed, I’ve become more of a leader within the school, and now I’m a leading teacher for pathways and transitions. I find that people now often approach me and ask for advice. In my nine years of teaching, I’ve realised that being part of the union isn’t just about me, it’s about looking after each other.

In my first year of teaching there was a teachers’ strike. I’ll never forget walking down the streets of the city, going into that big hall, sitting together and listening to the speakers - and the thousands of red t-shirts in the room, all supporting the cause. Teaching can be a career where it’s mainly just you and the kids, and you can feel a bit alone sometimes. But being a member of the AEU makes you feel that you’re part of something bigger, and as a collective we have a lot of power. When the strike happened, it felt like the government had to listen to us, and negotiate, because there was so many of us, united with one voice.

I’m newly married, and my wife’s also a teacher. We’ve just built a house together, and we’d like to have a family some day. We are able to have the life we do and plan for the future because we know that our pay will continue to grow, thanks to the AEU fighting for it every time the Agreement gets renegotiated. It’s helped us to build our house. We work hard as teachers, it’s not an easy job and it can consume your life, so it’s nice to have pay that reflects the work we put in.

Students often approach me and ask, “What’s it like to be a teacher?” And it’s great to be able to answer them honestly and tell them that it’s a job you can do forever, that it’s great for your future.

I tell them that if they want to be teachers, they should go for it.

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